NOTES FROM THE FIELD: Names and numbers

NOTES FROM THE FIELD: Names and numbers

Looking through my e-mail inbox the other day, I was struck by all the spam I received compared to actual quality messages.

A lot of the time you can tell which messages are spam just by looking at the name of the sender or the subject line. For example, if the sender's name is Jill45798, or any other combination of a name and several numbers, it's probably spam.

And if the subject line is in all caps with more than one exclamation mark, it's more than likely spam. Spammers often promise in the subject line "you won't be disappointed!"

If you open these e-mails you learn the amazing secrets behind getting rich quickly - which may be the next step for some dot-com Silicon Valley startups, but that's another story.

"What's this one, Bobby?" Randi asked me, pointing a perfectly manicured red fingernail at another spam subject line on my screen called "Order Viagra!".

The recent exponential increase in spam all over the Internet has led some ISPs to take measures to help their customers avoid the mailbox-clogging scourge. AT&T, for example, offers filters to its e-mail users.

In spite of its best efforts, at least one ISP may have annoyed as many customers as it was trying to please.

My spies tell me that Verio's anti-spam efforts have prevented some of its users from sending e-mail. One spy says the company representative admitted the problem and was in the process of holding a series of meetings to come up with a solution.

Maybe that's why so many customers of so many ISPs are having so much trouble sending and receiving e-mail. Yet, in spite of all these anti-spam efforts, my mailbox still overflows with the stuff.

Calling an Internet security Web site offensive, a Microsoft official recently called on the ISP host to take down its page. According to this ISP, the page had information about how hackers could get a payload containing a Trojan horse into a system via e-mail and then had explanations about how the security hole could be fixed.

The owner of the Internet security site said they'd offered Microsoft information about how to fix the security hole that is specific to Windows NT four years ago. Back then Microsoft declined to use that fix. The Internet security site representative says Microsoft is raising a stink now because it wants to cover up the fact that it knew about the NT security hole.

The integration of the Web and TV is about to move one step closer with the launch of a stealth mode company called CommerceTV. Through a deal with cable companies and Web TV, this company plans to help you buy whatever your favourite TV or cable television show character is wearing or driving by clicking a mouse over that item on the TV screen.

Randi sneaked into my home office and deleted all my spam last week. "You don't need any get-rich-quick schemes or any Viagra, Bobby," she said.

Robert X. Cringely is a regular contributor to ARN's sister publication Infoworld

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